A life-saving charity is launching a major fundraising campaign today to help it continue its vital work.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service, based at Langwathby, near Penrith, needs to find thousands of pounds a month to help keep the service airborne.
Its Pride of Cumbria helicopter after 30 years’ service is now coming to the end of its life and would need £500,000-worth of routine maintenance next year to keep flying.
The charity has bought a newer, more powerful Dauphin N3 helicopter, which it says will allow it to reach even more patients across the county.
It is expected to begin work next month and the charity is now appealing to supporters far and wide to help it meet its monthly loan repayment costs.
It was able to fund the deposit for the aircraft through savings. The Pride of Cumbria responds to major incidents, traffic collisions and accidents, saving hundreds of lives a year.
It is not funded by the NHS and relies on people raising cash to keep it in action.
Andy Mawson, director of operations, said: “We are incredibly grateful for the ongoing support we have received.
“We hope they are able to continue to support us, even in these difficult times, and allow us to be there when we are needed.
“The Pride of Cumbria has been a magnificent servant to the county and the North as a whole.
“She has flown many thousands of missions and been the difference between life and death for so many people.
“But she’s 30 years old now and although she’s in great shape at present, she’s got major routine maintenance next year which will cost around £500,000.
“We simply cannot justify spending that much.
“The last year has been a struggle for the charity, but we needed to look beyond COVID and think about the most effective way to keep our service operating.”
The charity expects the new aircraft — official name to be confirmed — will serve the region for at least 15 years.
When Ashley Herbert, of Cliburn, got his hand caught in a piece of farm machinery in July, 2014, the Great North Air Ambulance took him to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
He lost his hand and now wears a prosthetic.
He said: “GNAAS are absolutely awesome. If it wasn’t for them I would have been in a worse position. It’s great to hear they are getting a new helicopter in Cumbria which will serve the region for many years to come. I would encourage anyone to support them.”
The Pride of Cumbria is now for sale and proceeds will be reinvested back into the charity.